26 January 2022
No animal at Joburg Zoo has ever contracted or suffered from COVID19

Contrary to a recent online article, titled “Lions, pumas at Joburg zoo contracted COVID-19 from workers, study reveals”, published by the Citizen on 18 January 2022, the Johannesburg Zoo would like to categorically state that none of the animals in our care at Johannesburg Zoo have contracted the Covid-19 virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

The article stated that research led by scientists at the University of Pretoria (UP) found three lions and two pumas fell ill with coronavirus - and the clues point to infection by their handlers, some of whom were asymptomatic. The article further makes mention that the investigation by researchers at the UP was launched after three lions at an unnamed private zoo in Johannesburg fell ill last year with breathing difficulties, runny noses and a dry cough.

The Johannesburg Zoo veterinary team led by Dr Arnold Kanengoni, Manager Veterinarian Services, has verified that the big cats at the Joburg Zoo have not been infected and neither contracted the Covid-19 virus since the start of the pandemic. Dr Kanengoni has stated that the zoo keepers continue to take strict precautionary measures before, during and after the handling of all animals as well as their enclosures.

Daily staff routine checks:

  • All staff are screened by security personnel on arrival in the mornings for possible signs and/or symptoms of the virus.
  • Staff members visit the clinic situated in the zoo for further screening by nurses.
  • Any staff member with Covid symptoms is immediately sent home.
  • It is compulsory for all staff to wear masks, sanitize regularly and wash hands frequently.
  • Sanitizer dispensers are provided throughout the zoo.
  • Staff members are encouraged to vaccinate

Daily animal routine checks:

  • Zoo animals are observed daily by their keepers and attendants for any unusual symptoms and behavioral changes that may indicate that they are not well.
  • If any animal displays suspicious signs, these are immediately reported to the veterinarians for further investigation.
  • Hospital staff continue to do the annual health checks on all the animals in the zoo, i.e, radiographs, blood sampling and testing, etc.
  • Hospital staff vaccinate animals against other diseases to which the various groups of animals are susceptible.

“The dedication and compassion of zoo staff, for the welfare, care and treatment of all our animals at the Joburg Zoo is our number one priority.  During the pandemic, we ensured that every precautionary measure was taken and we continue to do so,” stated Dr Kanengoni. 

Dr Kanengoni reiterated, “That none of our primates and carnivores have been affected by COVID-19 as far as we are aware. We have been monitoring our animals carefully during this pandemic for any signs and symptoms of this infection and there has been none. We have ensured that all veterinary staff, keepers, animal attendants and those preparing food for the animals to observe all the precautions to stop the spread of the virus when dealing with the animals eg wearing masks, sanitizing, washing of hands and observing social distancing”.

Issued by on behalf of Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

Media enquiries can be directed to: Noeleen Mattera: Stakeholder & Media Relations, Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo T: 011 712-6722 E: nmattera@jhbcityparks.com ; www.jhbcityparksandzoo.com